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Buzzcocks: Buzzcocks (2003) August 16, 2009

Posted by sjroby in Music.
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Buzzcocks: Buzzcocks

Buzzcocks: Buzzcocks

Many of the first wave UK punk bands tried to make comebacks well after their late ’70s heyday, and for many, the results were mixed at best. They was true to an extent for the Buzzcocks as well. They broke up in 1981 after three albums and a string of singles (many collected on the Singles Going Steady collection).

The band reunited in 1989, though for most of the time since then singer/guitarist/songwriters Pete Shelley and Steve Diggle have been the only constants. I like the albums they’ve done, despite thinking that they recycled a bit too much material and wandered away from the more experimental approach they seemed to be taking on their last album before the breakup, A Different Kind of Tension.

I suppose it’s ironic, then, that for my money the best album they’ve recorded since the 1970s has recycled material and adheres pretty strictly to the punk formula. Their self-titled 2003 album is the reunited version’s strongest and most consistent album, with a lot more energy and aggression than the previous reunion albums. Some of the songs have the catchiness of their pop punk peak, others are just fast, hard, loud in a way they weren’t always. Combined with the fact that the album is named after the band, it feels like a statement of intent. They’re demonstrating just how much energy and power there still is in this band.

Pete Shelley and Steve Diggle both contribute songs to the album, and Diggle, who seems to be considered the lesser light of the band, contributes one of my favourites, the catchy and propulsive “Sick City Sometimes.” As for the recycling, where in the past they’ve sometimes gone back to unexciting Pete Shelley solo singles, both recycled tunes have a connection to former Buzzcock and later Magazine leader Howard Devoto. There’s a redo of “Lester Sands,” once only available on the Time’s Up bootleg by the first Buzzcocks lineup with Devoto on vocals, and a punk take on “Stars,” which appeared in a very different form on the Shelley/Devoto Buzzkunst album a couple years earlier.

It may not be the place to start for someone who’s never heard the Buzzcocks before (try Singles Going Steady), but you could cetainly do worse. It doesn’t show the range the band is capable of but it’s a success nonetheless. It’s not just a damn good album by a band a couple of decades after its glory days, it’s a damn good album, period.

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